April 15: Easter at Our Lady of Grace and St Edward, Chiswick

The Easter Vigil Mass at Our Lady of Grace and St Edward’s was a celebration of Christ’s rising from the dead. As the darkened church gradually filled with light, bells rang out and the beautiful voices of the choir soared, joyfully proclaiming the risen Christ.

The Easter Triduum started with the Mass of the Lord's Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday continuing through the Good Friday services and concluding with the vigil mass on Easter Saturday evening. The word ‘Triduum’ covers any three day period of prayer, recalling the three days that Christ spent in the tomb.

Easter for Canon Anthony and Assistant Priest, Father Andrew had required thoughtful planning and for Fr. Andrew a good deal of singing practise. This was the first time he had celebrated Easter as a priest and he admitted that his greatest fear was singing the Exultet or Easter Proclamation, a long hymn of praise. But all went well.

Canon Anthony kept an ever watchful eye on proceedings, fully alert to potential dangers and ensuring that all went smoothly.  It was a busy time, but as the Canon said one that brings us many blessing, time when we recognise God’s goodness and together celebrate the wonder and joy of the Resurrection.  Many of the congregation, which numbered around five hundred, expressed the view that this celebration of Easter had been a deeply spiritual experience. 

Easter in the Parish offered something for everyone. Members of The Young Adults Group brought together by Comboni Sister. Graca, felt more relaxed following the Taize form of worship which started in France. This includes readings from the Gospel, singing and silent meditation.  

 I found the group in the church on Good Friday evening. Colourful mats had been scattered in front of the altar rails, where dozens of flickering tea lights in red glass holders had been placed. The young adults took it in turn to read passages from the holy scriptures, say short prayers and sing songs of praise It was a beautiful and peaceful gathering. .As I left the church I took with me the words ’Bless the Lord my soul and bless His holy name.’

With many thanks to our parishioner, Trish Williams, for writing this beautiful article. 

27 December: Christmas Appeal for donations for the 2300 Young Refugees sleeping rough in the woods of Calais – only 4 hours from London

There are 2300 refugees – young men, women and children - fleeing war and oppression, sleeping rough in the woods of Calais. They are in desperate need of humanitarian aid during these winter months. 

The Comboni Cenacle of Missionary Prayer Group in Chiswick launched an urgent Christmas appeal to collect donations of warm clothes, tents, shoes, toiletries and blankets to take over personally to the Refugees’ Camps in Calais on 27th  December. 

The Christmas Appeal

The appeal received an overwhelming response from you in a very short space of time and we were offered far more than we could carry. People showed a great deal of loving concern for the refugees. 

A huge THANK YOU to all those that so generously donated from the parishes of Our Lady of Grace and St Edward, Chiswick, Our Lady of Victories and Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Simon Stock, Kensington, and the Religious of Mary Immaculate Hostel, Kensington.!!

To see the video we made of the trip go to: www.stopsinaitorture.org/calais/

The Trip to Calais 

17 of us loaded 6 cars full of donations and drove to Dover. There was a huge storm and the port of Calais was closed for a while. When we arrived at the camp there was a hail storm, strong winds and heavy rainfall. Many of the plastic coverings and small tents had been blown down, and people were wet and cold and without proper warm clothes and shoes.

It was shocking to see the place where they were living and also to see how young the people are – late teens and twenties. We met Eritreans, Ethiopians, Sudanese, Iranians, Syrians and Afghans. Young men and women and some children. Ajok, a Sudanese member of our Cenacle group, met a pregnant woman whose tent was surrounded by other tents in an effort to keep her warm.

When we first arrived in the mud and rain, we were immediately offered shelter under a black plastic sheet held up by sticks by 6 young Ethiopian refugees – one young man was only 16! They had made a fire under the plastic sheet and had put their tents on top of lots of newspapers to keep warm. We sat in a circle around the fire and we talked – Cenacle member Lul from Eritrea acted as interpreter. They offered us their broken chairs to sit on and a small plastic pot of the food they were sharing. I could not believe the hospitality they offered us in the middle of this terrible storm. One young man, who was very distraught, began to talk about Our Lady, so we all began to pray together, which united us and brought some moments of peace and calm as Christ sat with us.

Outside Francois, from L’Auberge des Migrants, began to distribute the 14, four people tents we brought. He first distributed tickets to the people gathered around our cars in order to avoid a frenzied grab. We kept talking and listening to their requests for plastic sheets, for shoes, jackets and warm clothes trying to calm their desperation in the pouring rain. Many had just arrived so were not equipped for these storms. They did not know where to go to get food or clothes or shelter. 

One very slim Afghan man I spoke to covered his face with a scalf and was very agitated. I took the scalf away from his face so I could talk to him, and saw he was very young. He was ashamed he said because he had not had a shower, nor brushed his teeth for some time. He asked where he could shower and find good shoes – his had holes in them.

We were shocked by the lack of facilities for the refugees and the lack of volunteers or organisations in Calais helping them. There are a few valiant people who have been helping for some years with very little support. Such as  Pascal and Marie Christine from Secours Catholique (CARITAS), Francois and Christian from L’Auberge des Migrants, and Amelie and Sarah from Solid-R. But they felt it is very little and does not meet the needs of the young people.

A Place of Prayer in the midst of chaos

Next we were taken to the Christian chapel built out of plastic and tents by the Eritreans. They had put carpets on the floor and we entered the darkness taking off our shoes. The storm had got stronger, with thunder and lightening, and the plastic being blown so hard we thought we were going to be blown away. But a young Eritrean lit the few candles they had at the altar they had made and we all knelt a prayed together for some time – crying quietly in the dark for this desperate situation. It was another moment where we felt God’s presence very close to us.

Women and Children without shoes

Finally we went to a women’s house run by Solid-R and housed 50 women and children. It had warmth, showers, toilets, food and beds. But more of these are needed. We were told there are another 230 women and children sleeping in the woods. We saw several children wrapped up in plastic sheets outside the Eritrean chapel in La Jungle Tioxide. As we were leaving a few of the girls were wrapping up warm, preparing themselves to go back out to the woods to sleep as there was no space for them at the house. The problem at the women’s house was they are short of warm underclothes, toiletries, shoes (many only had sandals or flip-flops), also flour, onions, oil and other food.

It was dark now and we had to go to the ferry. We still felt there was so much we could do and now we know more, we can help more efficiently. 

The Results

Feven, an Eritrean member of the Cenacle had prepared 200 meals of Eritrean food. Many of our group stayed at the Secours Catholique hall packing the food in boxes ready to be taken to the woods and given out. The food was a huge success and gratefully received by the refugees.

The blankets, clothes, duvets and sleeping bags, donated by you, were given out to 60 refugees by Secours Catholique on 10th January.

What Next?

We are going back to Calais on 31st January for the weekend this time. This time with EMMAUS St Albans who will transport our donations in their van. We need to buy 12 man tents, shoes, boots, camping stoves, sleeping bags, lanterns, food and candles. To donate online:https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/calais

Posted on January 12, 2015 .